Robert Okaji

Letter to Geis from This Side of the Glass

Dear Greg: I can't help but think about windows, their function, their meanings, intended and otherwise, how they block some entities but allow others entrance. A black vulture feather lies just on the other side of this pane, but the laws of material and physics prevent me from reaching through and claiming it. Maybe I'd sharpen the end, dip it into squid ink and write letters. Or not. Cephalopods are scarce in the hill country, unlike carrion birds, wild hogs and scorpions, and frankly, ballpoint pens require less maintenance. Lately, the opaque has redirected my attention — no matter which government agency speaks, I feel surrounded by their pseudomorphs, those little indistinct clouds of mucus and dark pigment released to confuse and numb me. A common occurrence, I hear, and all the more frightening for it. I think of where we're headed, collectively and individually, and even knowing that our destination remains unchanged offers small comfort. One foot at a time, the steps matter, and though it appears we won't share those planned brews in Bandera, I'll chuckle over our last meeting there and dream up a conversation about futility and compromise, and yes, success. I've just spent twenty minutes trying to help a yellow jacket escape. It wouldn't leave the glass even after I left the door ajar, allowing a fly to enter. Instead, it gazed out at the hazy morning, seeking a way through refraction's oblique path. Finally, shepherded with my bare hand, it reluctantly skittered to the jamb, and I coaxed it the final few inches by pushing it with the door. Such are my days. A little faith, some hope, luck and a great unknowing. This window seems cloudy, or is it just my eyes? I miss you, buddy, as do the hills and the sky and everything nestled and bustling between. Bob

A Texas Goodbye​

Wherein I search through debris for that root,
that long foot grasping soil and air, a streak
of forever's descent. Chain sawing wood
I've breathed the metaphor of ash and earth,
have stared at flame, dreamed of water, a wave
of night crashing me through its strong-armed flow.

Among limestone and cedar, shadows flow
past prickly pear shadows, where wild hogs root
among thirsty rocks, and bandanas wave
goodbye to yesterday. Hummingbirds streak
past, defending borders of air and earth,
and I gaze at my stunted, twisted wood.

Soon I'll leave this plot behind, burn its wood
no more. I will release myself and flow
northward, pulled to a strange land where the earth
grows darker, where no one knows me, and root-
less I'll stand, but not alone. Birds will streak
the gray sky. I'll proffer a half-assed wave.

Longing, I think of Hokusai's great wave
and the insect trails circling my stick's wood
as I stomp through the knee-high grass, a streak
of diamond-shapes muscling ahead, that flow
between life's weeds and thorns. My old heartroot
stretches past dawn, star and sky, beyond earth.

When I think of fire, I grasp the light           earth
holds, the origins of water and wave,
the sadness of leaving. I will take root
in old ground, find new trees to love, hardwood
to carve and learn from, seek new patterns, flow
between now and then, reclaim luck's long streak.

Until then I wait, watch that feathered streak
buzz its pendulum course above the earth.
When it's time, I'll surrender to the flow,
lie back, let go, accept the soothing wave
and all it carries — losses, secrets, wood —
leaving behind that sad cumbersome root.

The window's streak contains light but no root.
Leaves flow, too fast to count. Just then, a wave.
The earth trembles as I stack the split wood.

Robert Okaji lives in Indianapolis. The author of several chapbooks, his work has appeared or is forthcoming in Atlanta Review, Vox Populi,
Indianapolis Review, Slippery Elm, North Dakota Quarterly and elsewhere.